Investigators probing last week's devastating terror attacks in the United States have identified four or five groups operating there that are linked to the prime suspect in the case, Osama bin Laden, a report said Sunday.
But the Washington Post said that agents had not been able to establish any link between these cells of bin Laden's Al Qaeda (The Base) movement and the 19 men who hijacked four airliners on September 11 and turned them into flying bombs.
The groups are under intense scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who are probing thousands of leads relating to the United States' worst terror attack and who have detained more than 75 people for questioning.
"The FBI has not made any arrests because the group members entered the country legally in recent years and have not been involved in illegal activities since they arrived," the paper quoted officials as saying.
Officials told the paper they did not know what the groups were doing in the United States or whether their members were planning any attacks here. The authorities have been on alert here amid speculation of possible further attacks.
Bin Laden's Al Qaeda is a network of loosely affiliated groups of extremists that operates cells around the globe.
"They are so good at compartmentalizing," an official told the paper, adding that it was very difficult to establish links between the different cells of the organization.
The official, however, refused to say where the Al Qaeda cells in the United States were based.
Some 19 men, all allegedly of Middle Eastern origin, are believed to have hijacked four aircraft from Boston, Washington and Newark last week, piloting two of them into New York's World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania.
The paper also claimed in a separate article that US federal authorities had been aware "for years" that suspected terrorists with ties to bin Laden were training as pilots in the United States.
The Post quoted a senior government official as admitting that law enforcement officials were "aware that fewer than a dozen people with links to bin Laden had attended US flight schools.
"However, the official said there was no information to indicate the flight students had been planning suicide hijacking attacks," the paper said.
Investigators have found that several of the suspected hijackers took flying lessons at various locations around the country in the months leading up to the attacks -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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